Happy 2022 season, White Sox fans! In the offseason (and during opening week), my professional obligations had me in absentia at South Side Sox, so I’d like to join you in welcoming me back. There’s nothing I love more than sharing baseball with you, and I predict that we’re going to have a lot of fun this season.
Thankfully, the season is starting much differently from last year; no more social distancing at games, a pandemic that’s likely becoming endemic, and a White Sox front office that actually spent money on the vital filling of positional vacancies. One thing hasn’t changed: The White Sox are a winning team, and they’re charging forward with the goal of their third postseason in a row.
One of the biggest changes is the projection of a winning season for the South Siders by unbiased sources. The first ’22 MLB Power Rankings placed the White Sox at No. 2. No, not entirely forgotten, but No. 2! At worst, all projections place them as a shoo-in for an AL Central Division title. That’s surprising, only because the White Sox never get much credit, even when we win a World Series title, so the hype is exciting to all Chicago baseball fans.
With those projections in mind, it’s easy to understand why the amount of White Sox hats I’ve seen on the north side has doubled in the past year. If you ask Cubbie converts why they’ve shifted allegiance, many will blame the Ricketts and problematic ownership, politics, or simple annoyance about the Marquee Network. To my delight, the dismal projections of our crosstown rivals have transformed my daily drive past the blue cesspit into a mirthful pity-party ramble in my Volvo. Before this season picks up steam, I implore you, White Sox fans, please welcome our Cubbie converts with open arms. We’re all Chicagoans, after all, and they deserve a clean, fun, and up-to-code place to enjoy some winning baseball.
That said, winning baseball is what we have so far, despite numerous unnerving injuries. The highest hope is that all players start the season healthy, but luckily, we have some great utility players ready to fill in for our convalescent favorites. Stars or noobs, as long as it’s winning baseball, we’re their biggest fans. This season promises to be electrifying, and brings with it a hope to win the whole damn thing. So without further adieu, I present my season setup of hopes and fears.
HOPE: New acquisitions track with the team’s winning attitude.
Josh Harrison accepted the offer from the White Sox even though it wasn’t his highest, because for him it was a “no-brainer” to join such a loaded roster. Harrison’s joy for baseball is contagious, and his optimism and attitude make him a perfect fit for the White Sox. The same can be said of former Gold Glove winner, AJ Pollock, whose former Dodgers teammates felt “sickened and shocked” to see him leave because he was so playful and open, not to mention a consistently great bat and an impressive defensive player. Pollock’s postseason past will be invaluable when the pressure is on the White Sox later in the season. The hope is that White Sox gaps are filled with these new additions to the roster, and adding these solid veterans will fortify the already-formidable offense.
FEAR: Tanner Banks, repeat burnout.
Lifetime minor leaguer and rookie at age 30, Banks had a great major league debut during versus the Tigers, and looks to be a key swingman cog as the White Sox navigate the waters without Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn. My fear is that he’ll pull a Yermín Mercedes, and crash and burn out. Who among us didn’t earnestly believe that the Yerminator was going to be a breakout superstar? We went absolutely apeshit over his once-rising star, who even had a burger named after him. All it took for his star to fall was some unwritten rule enforcement from Tony La Russa, and out of nowhere he publicly quit baseball on Instagram Live, of all places, and in a cringe move, un-quit the following day. Let’s hope Tanner Banks handles the pressure of the big leagues with more grace than Yermín.
HOPE: Reese McGuire ups the offense.
McGuire is a great defensive addition as a catcher, with his strong pitch-framing and capable blocking almost making up for his mediocre offense. The hope is that he betters his bat. Plus, the more he plays, the more jokes I can make about him playing for the Expos. Just kidding, Reese. We’re glad you’re here.
FEAR: Dallas Keuchel will continue to blow.
I won’t elaborate because I’ve lost enough of my precious time watching his ERA get higher than Tim Lincecum. We need you, Keuchel. A World Series may depend on you.
HOPE: Joe Kelly, superstar and best friend.
In an acquisition that tickled me down to my bones, veteran pitcher Joe Kelly has joined the White Sox, maybe to the chagrin of others given his high price tag. It’s impossible not to love his buffoonish character.
First, his 2013 national anthem stand-off as a postseason Cardinal vs. Dodger Scott Van Slyke in Game 6 of the NLCS does something to me as a comedian. It’s not often you see outlandish antics in such an important, nationally-televised matchup. This tracks with the White Sox motto, #ChangetheGame, and my hope is to see more of this playful attitude from him as a South Sider.
Second, the utter outrage we’ve all felt towards the wrist-slapped cheating cheater Astros has been universal, so the intensity of Kelly striking out and staring down Carlos Correa, only for Joe to break his resentful glare with a mocking crying face was the most satisfying moment of the 2018 Astros hate-a-thon. Kelly received a five-game ban for headhunting, a pouty-face mural immortalizing the moment, and a lifetime fan in me.
Finally, the most oddball reasoning for my Joe Kelly fandom: My husband, a professional actor like myself, bears a striking resemblance to him, so much so that in a collage of their photos next to one another, it’s difficult for people to tell them apart.
So, Joe, you’re my new favorite South Sider, even though my reasoning is irrational and more like a subconscious knee-jerk reaction inside of my ovaries. You are a hot-ass clown, and my hope is that you come to my beach barbecue party so we can joke about baseball and talk shit about whatever player is pissing you off. And maybe kayak. And maybe play catch, but with one of those balls that bounce on water so you don’t break my tiny wrists.
FEAR: Jose Abreu goes extreme.
MVPito is the heart and soul of this team, and a loyal, dependable player who leads by example. But between the comically large lip of chewing tobacco, beard ponytail, heavy gold chains, and loads of pine tar, my fear is that Abreu will keep going to extremes with these choices if he’s not reined in. Where will it end? An entire pack of chew in both upper and lower lips? Pine tar so thick it creates stricter regulations on the substance? A beardytail so long that it interferes with his at-bats? Gold chains that add so much weight, they slow his speed even further? Nope, actually, Abreu can do no wrong, no matter what, and we trust all his personal choices. Keep doing whatever you feel, José.
HOPE: Accolades where they’re deserved.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Tim Anderson, Eloy Jiménez, and Luis Robert earned batting titles in 2022, but a Gold Glove doesn’t seem too far out of reach for Eloy or Luis, either. Maybe they’ll create the Barry Bonds Award for most walks in a season and award it to Yasmani Grandal, so my dad gets off his case when he looks at his batting average instead of his on-base percentage. In my wildest dreams, Dallas Keuchel will win the brand new Lucas Giolito “Worst Pitcher in Baseball to All-Star” Guaranteed Rate Pitching Improvement Award. Maybe Michael Kopech will have his breakout season and win the Cy Young, and Andrew Vaughn, who will never be traded from the South Side, will blossom in the DH spot.
I know these hopes are unrealistic, but that’s the thrill of a brand-new season, White Sox fans. Anything can happen!